BLACKWOOD, NJ — Over 1.6 million people in New Jersey have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the state.

Looking to help individuals out of work, as well as employers unable to hire more people due to the financial impact of COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced $14 million of new workforce development funds Wednesday.

The funds, as part of the state’s Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act pot, will assist residents in acquiring new skills that ultimately lead to employment. They will also create programs aimed at helping businesses “replenish their workforce.”

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The $14 million will be split into three buckets (per the governor’s office):

  • $4 million for Relief Employment – Provide dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed the opportunity to perform temporary jobs related to the state’s recovery from the pandemic. The first sector targeted for these jobs will be long-term care 
  • $3 million for Customized and On-the-Job Training– Cover up to 50% of training costs of a new employee if an employer commits to hiring that employee upon completion of the training. Will target essential and struggling industries such as retail, grocery, hospitality, tourism, health care, transportation, and logistics
  • $7 million for Employment and Training Services – Expand career support services supported by the Workforce Investment Boards throughout the State. The services include outreach, intake, assessment screening, resume critiques, virtual job referrals, and referrals for short-term training, which can be provided remotely 

“Too many people are not just unemployed, but they've given up and this is an effort to track them down and bring them back in,” Murphy said at the outdoor press briefing at Camden County College’s (CCC) Blackwood campus. “These are investments that will lead to a paycheck that can support a family, they are investments in new skills that will carry workers further into their careers, and they are investments in dignity and security for working families…that is the best investment we can make.”

The governor abruptly left 20 minutes into the press conference after being informed that he had been exposed to a senior staff member, who was positive for the coronavirus.  

Before he learned of the exposure, Murphy outlined the program and the state’s efforts to help residents get back to work. 

Murphy said each participant that enters the workforce development program will receive a commitment for a job from an employer, and “from our end, we will help substance subsidize the starting wage.” 

The employment relief program will get another boost from $8.4 million in federal competitive grants dedicated to displaced federal workers, he said.

During the briefing, Murphy said as of Wednesday the state has an additional 1,062 positive coronavirus patients (223,223 total) and 18 more deaths (14,456 confirmed and 1,789 “probable”).  Two of the new deaths and 62 cases trace back to Camden County, where the event was being held.

“Hospitalizations are the highest they’ve been in three months,” Murphy said. “This is not abstract. It remains with us. It’s surging over the last number of weeks.”

Camden County Freeholder Jonathan Young spoke of the county’s efforts to help residents unable to pay their back rent and those who have faced food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. 

“Now's the time for them to be able to get retooled, retrained and put back out in the workforce,” Young concluded.

Congressman Donald Norcross, who said he attended CCC, spoke of the school’s glowing reputation in helping students pursue their ambitions.

“This has been a hallmark of our college’s rich history. We are the answer to many of the problems related to the economic well-being of our citizens and industries,” said Camden County College President Donald Borden.

“We start at the high school level, offering dual credit opportunities to students while also providing drop-out prevention programs, and adult basic skills leading to their earning high school diplomas," Borden continued. "The 18 community colleges in New Jersey offer degree programs that often lead to employment, as well as transfer options to four-year institutions. As illustrated by this meeting today, we are the leaders in workforce training and are critical to…rebuilding the state's economy.”